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Many people struggle their whole lives with addiction. If they have the good fortune of knowing they have an addiction, they might be lucky enough to stop. Others may think they just have a terrible habit and spend their whole lives trying to control behavior they can’t give up. The longer they try to handle a particular dependency, the greater the tentacle of addiction has on their minds. Addiction can’t be controlled, and once you start trying to control it, it’s already too late. But there’s a simple key that could release them from bondage.

Trying to fill an invisible hole

While addiction has roots and causes, that is not what keeps people addicted. Addiction results from attempting to fill an invisible hole – the feeling that something is missing. But when you try to fill nothing with nothing, you only get a greater void. You can’t run on addiction any more than an automobile can run on water.

Filling the void with all the wrong things

When alcohol is used to get a warm, comfortable feeling, it’s only creating an illusion of feeling good. Once the alcohol wears off, the same emptiness remains, along with feeling depleted from drinking. The same is true for cigarettes, drugs, food, gambling, porn, sugar, or anything else used to cover up the emptiness. You get a quick hit or sense of momentary satisfaction, usually followed by guilt or remorse for doing the thing you swore off or overdoing it when you’d set limits.

Substituting Love

Every addiction is a replacement for love, so you reverse the process if you want to make it easy to stop. Every time you think of engaging in an addiction, you do something good for yourself instead of something that is harming you. For example, if you’ve decided to stop smoking, you get a support group to have friends to share progress and socialize. You start a new interest or hobby that puts your mind on learning something new, spend time shopping for and preparing healthy meals – anything that replaces the harmful behavior with loving behavior.

Every time you think of having a cigarette, you do something good for yourself – take a walk, smell flowers, eat sugar-free candy, drink herbal tea, help a friend, get a pet, or do volunteer work.

You learn to observe your thoughts, and you refuse to be a victim of them. You recognize there are two channels in your mind, one that tells you the right thing to do and one that tells you the wrong thing. I refer to this as the AM (for addicted) or FM (for free) station, and whenever the addiction starts talking to you, change the channel.

If your mind tells you, ‘I miss smoking, I love smoking,’ you replace it with, ‘I don’t miss the smell, coating my lungs with tar and nicotine, or the stains on my walls and fingers. I love feeling better and knowing that my body is healing from the damage cigarettes have caused.’ Every time you think you want a cigarette, you think of how good it feels to be freed from the slavery of smoking. Say, “I am finally free, and I feel good about myself.”

The same technique applies to any addiction.  

It’s easy to stop an addiction, and the difficulty comes from the struggle, not the actual addiction. Once you stop, you stop, including all negotiations about reengaging. As you continue to replace the addiction with an act of love, your physical and mental health will continue to improve every day. Before you know it, addiction will be something you used to do, and now you’re happy that you don’t.

Join our movement.

Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.

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